obama (2013 state of the union))*(Via USA Today) – President Obama outlined plans Tuesday to revive American prosperity by rebuilding “a thriving middle class,” calling it the “true engine of America’s economic growth” during his annual State of the Union Address.

Growing the economy and creating good middle-class jobs “must be the North Star that guides our efforts,” Obama told a joint session of Congress and a national television audience.

While devoting most of his speech to jobs and the economy, Obama also announced plans to pull 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next year, reducing the American presence by about half as part of a planned overall withdrawal. “By the end of next year,” Obama said, “our war in Afghanistan will be over.”

The president also condemned the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, and pledged to work with Russia to continue reducing American and Russian nuclear stockpiles.

In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hour-long speech, Obama called on Congress to vote on gun-control proposals in order to honor “Americans whose lives have been torn apart” by mass violence. “They deserve a vote,” Obama said.

In a litany of economic proposals, Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage — from $7.25 to $9 per hour — as well as new plans to speed up infrastructure projects, promote manufacturing, improve science and math education and develop alternative sources of energy.

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Watch President Obama’s (2013) State of the Union address: